This week, Pastor Chris continued in our series through the book of Acts with a word on religious persecution. It is becoming increasingly more unpopular to be a Christian in our culture, but we need not be intimidated. As Bible-believing Christians, we should each expect to face opposition when we speak truth. We need to operate in the fear of the Lord in order to boldly speak the truth of the Gospel no matter the consequence. Chris sought to answer how we can be bold and courageous in the midst of persecution.
Acts 4:1–4 (ESV)
1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
Acts 4:5–12 (ESV)
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:13–22 (ESV)
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
- Parrēsia is Spirit-inspired courage and confidence to speak despite danger or threat.
Church Grows & Opposition Grows
- The more people meet Jesus, the more critics rise up.
- The more good things happen, the more critics rise up.
- The more people are saved, the more critics rise up.
2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)
12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Matthew 5:11 (ESV)
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
- Overt persecution – you get thrown to the lions.
- Covert persecution – you get thrown to the critics.
- Overt persecution – you die for Christ.
- Covert persecution – you live for Christ.
- Overt persecution – they silence you by killing you.
- Covert persecution – they silence you by shaming you.
Acts 4:23–26 (ESV)
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
1. Open the Bible
- Who do you think wrote the Bible?
- Is it a book that people wrote about God, or is this a book that God wrote through people?
Verbal Plenary Inspiration: The Bible is God’s Word to humanity. It was written by human authors, but God prompted and guided them to write what they did. Every word, word form, and word placement found in the Bible’s original manuscripts was divinely and intentionally written. This is the orthodox view of the church and is known as verbal plenary inspiration.
Do you have a Biblical Worldview?
- Do absolute moral truths exist?
- Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
- Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
- Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
- Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
- Is Satan real?
- Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
- Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?
Colossians 2:8 (ESV)
…captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Ask yourself, “Is what I believe true?”
2. Christian Community
- Which Christian friends do you go to in time of need? Celebration?
- “Who can you lean on?”
- “Who can lean on you?”
3. Christian Prayer
- Who do you pray with?
- The thing that knits God’s people better than anything is prayer.
Acts 4:27–31 (ESV)
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
- Have you ever faced religious persecution for sharing or living out your faith? Share your experiences with the group.
- Pastor Chris said, “what you fear will control you.” Do you agree? How would fear of man keep a believer from sharing his or her faith?
- Have you ever sought to live a comfortable Christian life, free of opposition? Why is this not a Biblical response to the Gospel?
- Do you believe you have a responsibility to share your faith in Christ with other people? How are you fulfilling this in your daily life?
- Which of the 3 legs of the three-legged stool do you need to pursue more in order to be firm in your faith amongst opposition?
- Do you need an impartation of boldness and courage to share your faith? Ask the Holy Spirit for a fresh wave of boldness to fill you.
- The goal of the spirit of the age is to regulate the church into the four-walls of a church building. Are you experiencing this regulation in your daily life? Ask God to give you opportunities to share and courage to share when they arise.